Interview with author Allen Miles on ‘This is how you disappear’ and the Cheshire Cat

Interview with author Allen Miles on ‘This is how you disappear’ and the Cheshire Cat.

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Interview with author Allen Miles on ‘This is how you disappear’ and the Cheshire Cat

gillhoffs

Allen Miles has a new collection of short stories out soon (available as a print edition or ebook), so instead of asking him about that I thought I’d quiz him on the title.  Somehow this led to discussion of Paul Daniels and the Cheshire Cat.  Do feel free to ask him your own questions in the comments.

Allen Miles, author Allen Miles, authorly bloke

Q: The title “This is how you disappear” suggests you’ve either given some thought to disappearing yourself or to how you would advise someone else to disappear, so prepare to be grilled on that.  How and under what circumstances would you ever disappear, or wouldn’t that appeal as an option to you?

It is an option that appeals to me at roughly 6:58 each morning, which is the time I arrive at work. (Mr Miles’ colleagues wish to point out that the above is a blatant lie, as he is late pretty…

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Putting The “Fun” In Funeral by Gill Hoffs

As a depressed teenager, I spent a considerable amount of time scrawling my funeral set-list in the back of my school folders (along with biro drawings of gravestones and dangling bodies, but I digress) instead of learning about tenses in Latin and French and how to do something hideously complicated with sin, tan, and log (still no idea). Cheery choons such as the Manics’ “From Despair to Where” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFewXLjXTSU and their version of “Suicide is Painless” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y11f8Oc25AI were on there along with Radiohead’s “Creep” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyRh1EOyKOM . I’m now happy and healthy – phew! – but along with setting out actual practical preferences for disposing of my meatsack when I do finally pop my clogs (sky burial or body farm just FYI as I’m a bit worried I’ll be buried/burnt alive and this is safest in case I wake up) I figured it might be fun to get some possibilities on the internet where everything is forever, unlike me.

So in no particular order:

The Final Taxi – Wreckless Eric (thanks to The Workshy Fop for this recommendation!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHBwBfqYhIM

Who Wants To Live Forever? – Queen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jtpf8N5IDE

Born To Die – Lana Del Rey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bag1gUxuU0g

Lump – Presidents of the United States of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-aPyvRL9n4

Live Forever – Oasis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_2mWhfOhGU

I Know You’re Out There Somewhere – Moody Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjImFYf2Vzc

Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClQcUyhoxTg

Do You Realize? – The Flaming Lips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPXWt2ESxVY

Waltz #2 (XO) – Elliott Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2sfwky4RqQ

Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrTB-iiecqk it’s also one of the coolest videos ever.

Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ld6ombnGnA

Play Dead – Bjork http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHiHZ35TPfM

If I die of the plague or something similarly foul and catching and thus require cremation, the Bangles’ classic “Eternal Flame” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSoOFn3wQV4 is also a must, and if it’s windy then of course “Smoke gets in your eyes” by The Platters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3l001-zSA4 . But if I’m not left out on a mountain for carrion crows or fenced off somewhere for experiments with maggots (my body’s so full of chocolate and Nutella they’ll likely look like fat wriggly vermicelli), or burnt into a dusty grey sneeze-hazard, then clearly Faith No More’s “Digging the Grave” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Grx08ehxXMM should be blasting out followed by The Cranberries’ “Zombie” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ejga4kJUts .

If my fleshbag is disposed of on a Sunday (I’m atheist so maybe this would be a good day since most people I know are free) then clearly The Associates’ version of “Gloomy Sunday” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBmjfFlq0cA would be fun, especially since it includes the cop-out but beautiful verse about it all being just a dream.

If I started to believe in reincarnation, I’d hope to be present at the big send-off somehow (preferably not as the oft imagined fly-on-the-wall) while Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuG9i5cwGW0 was playing. And while I’m wishing for specifics, let nobody who comes bring cut flowers or snottery tears but petfood for shelters and Nutella for foodbanks instead. And let them recollect the most cringe-making things I’ve ever done loud and proud (but only once I’m dead).

The Telegraph published a list last year which had Sinatra’s “My Way” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePs6bHsQx6A as the top funeral tune, followed by Brightman and Bocelli’s “Time to say goodbye” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWQbuJ24Wzg . It’s probably fair to
say that if anything in good taste or that might be accused of being spiritually uplifting is played I’ll be rolling like the cartoon cherries in a fruit machine, and the only reason I’d want something like “Jar of hearts” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVFgfuiyBHw (the Glee version, naturally) played is if my body’s healthy enough to be used for organ donation. Fingers crossed it will.

I should probably note at this point that when my husband read this through his exact words were, “Hen, if you go first, I’m playing “Tramp The Dirt Down” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t4-zDem1Sk . That’s an appalling list of songs. I hope I die first.” Any more of that and he won’t need a magic lamp and a genie to grant his wish. Anyway…

While “She’s Not Dead” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6s9rbLeBlE is a very tempting final choice (ahem), I think really the closing number should be “The Next Life” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur5qz2X1vAE by the utterly shaggable Suede, though it might be more fun to opt for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIgZ7gMze7A by Wham!. My list seems awfully short compared to the dozens of indie tracks I used to detail behind my schoolwork, so do feel free to add suggestions below.

 

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book ‘The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic” is out now from Pen & Sword. Get it in bookshops or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur-Hardback/p/6053. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time: Number 3

No 3. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

MyBloodyValentineLoveless
Let’s start with a sweeping statement, yet one that I genuinely believe.

There is no other album like this in the vast catalogue of rock music. It is the most innovative album since the sixties, and one that, if you’ve never heard it before, will truly break down your ideas of how guitar music can be created.

1991 was a freak of a year for classic albums. For the rock fan there was Nevermind or Achtung Baby, for the dance enthusiast there was Screamadelica or The White Room, for the beard-stroker there was Blue Lines, and for the weirdo there was Spiderland. If you fancied some jangly g chords there were superb albums from REM, Teenage Fanclub and Crowded House and the deeply unfashionable but actually great Stars by Simply Red would sell 4 million copies.

Then came the one that was conceived by a musical genius who’s like hadn’t been known since the days of pantaloons and powdered wigs, a ground-breaking kaleidoscope of noise with smeared edges, distorted melodies and sleep-talked vocals.

Loveless was the album that famously, or infamously, took Creation records to the brink of bankruptcy, it was alleged to have cost a quarter of a million pounds to record, which for a scottish indie label in the late-eighties/early-nineties was absolutely absurd and would necessitate the signing of some bolshie rock ‘n’ rollers from Burnage two years later to save the label. Kevin Shields, the maestro, conductor and virtuoso of all the madness, told Creation boss Alan McGee that he could record the album in five days. In actuality he spent two years holed up in the studio getting stoned and playing pool, and it wasn’t until goggle-eyed waif rhythm guitarist Belinda Butcher joined the recording process that things got done.

It was worth it. This is some of the greatest music ever made. I first received this record as a Christmas present from my step-sister, and played it not knowing what the hell to expect. The opener, Only Shallow, is one of the most shocking opening tracks in all of rock. It starts with four sharp snare hits, the only distinctive sound on the entire record, then a noise that I would describe as… let me think… imagine being stood about fifteen foot from a Boeing 747’s engine as it took off, whilst two blue whales whistled at each other a few hundred yards away, and every half second a nearby tower block is detonated. This attempt to describe a track on an album shows me up for the hack that I am, but I defy anyone to describe it themselves. This unholy yet sickly sweet cacophony is then pulled round into a blissful post-coital, or post-narcotic haze-like verse, with murmured, barely comprehensible vocals about druggy sex or sexy drugs, before the row kicks in again. If My Bloody Valentine had only ever released this one song, their place in history would have been assured.

The fact that they went on to craft another ten tracks in a similar vein is nothing short of a miracle. For those of you who understand how the sound of a guitar can be distorted, it is astonishing to think that this music was made without the use of a single effects pedal, rather Shields swears it was all done with tone shifters and graphic equalisers, and repeated, ground-breaking use of the tremolo arm. Not since the early work of Lou Reed had a musician utterly corrupted his instrument to achieve the sound he was looking for. To Here Knows When, which was staggeringly the lead single, is a piece of music that defies any sort of convention. It consists of looping feedback, and, at least from what I can pick out, seven droning guitar tracks, a flute, a shuffly drumbeat and a vocal on which it is impossible to distinguish a single word. It is allegedly the track on which Shields, proving himself to be the musical equivalent of Stanley Kubrick, spent three weeks recording a tambourine part. It sounds like having your ear nailed to the wall while your neighbour is hoovering while singing along to the radio.

The fact that it is followed by When You Sleep, arguably the most conventional track here, is typical of this album’s contrasts. A great, needling, gliding riff compliments a lovely choppy chord sequence and a vocal of which you can actually recognize words, even though they don’t actually mean much: “When I look at you… oh…. (incoherent mumuring)”

It is not really necessary to remember song titles on this album, as all the tracks flow together into one neon-lit, belly-warming suite, and it is individual moments of the swirling symphony that stand out rather than whole songs. Where once, on the previous album, Isn’t Anything, the songs were aggressive, and in the case of No More Sorry, downright disturbing, here they are utterly blissful; the colossal swinging to-and-fro of the lead riff of I Only Said, the vocal refrain on Blown A Wish, where you have absolutely no idea what she is singing, but for some reason you just feel like hugging the nearest object to you; the sheer sonic pleasure of Come In Alone and What You Want, and the mind-boggling innovation of Soon, during which you realise that New Order had spent ten years looking for a sound that someone else achieved at a stroke.

And then, track eight, Sometimes. If my mother, wife, daughter or Martyn reads this article, please bear in mind that I want this song played at my funeral. Never has a human being extracted such emotion out of his chosen medium as Shields did in the latter half of this song. Just listen to it. Alone.

Best Tracks: Only Shallow, Come In Alone, Sometimes

Best Moment: 3:21-onwards in Sometimes: The most beautiful passage of guitar music ever committed to tape.

Like this? Try: There isn’t one.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 32 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He’s got a new book out. It’s really good. http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Al’s Top 30 Albums – No. 4

Number 4 – Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

astral

Music journalists love categorizing things. It makes things so much easier for them. Over the years a critical cannon of the best albums of any particular genre has emerged, and is genreally accepted without recourse. If you’re talking Pop, it’s Thriller, Pet Sounds or Like A Prayer. If it’s Rock, it’s Sgt Pepper’s, Led Zeppelin 4 or Rumours. Soul’s undisputed number one is Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Kind Of Blue has the jazz market cornered, just as Never Mind The Bollocks is the greatest punk album ever and It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Name The Greatest Rap Disc Of All Time. These are accepted facts, just like your best centre-half ever is Franco Baresi, if you’re talking out and out centre-forwards it’s Gerd Muller or Van Basten, and between the sticks Lev Yashin or Gordon Banks is your man.

Albums like these have become part of a pantheon, a cemented twenty or so records that always end up at the top of muso’s GOAT lists and have been since the mid-eighties, usurped oh-so-rarely, only in the event of a Radiohead, Oasis or Nirvana. But this one record is always there, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ziggy Stardust and Dark Side Of The Moon. The least talked-about work in these infernal lists defies any genre, which is why it’s so difficult to evaluate, certainly it is the album on my own list here that I’ve least looked forward to writing about. I do not claim to be a music journalist, or a musician, I am merely a fan, and therefore rather than picking this album apart as a true critic would, maybe I should write about this miraculous set of songs from a personal stand point. For this is a record that connects on a personal level in a way that even the very best music rarely does.

I bought Astral Weeks from Sydney Scarborough Records down King Edward Street in Hull when I was eighteen years old, in March or April 2000. It was part of one of my pay-day splurges on CDs that I did until the revolting compulsion of illegal downloading infected me about eight years later. In the plastic bag that swang from my arm that sunny spring morning were four albums: Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello (superb), Murder Ballads by Nick Cave (silly, but brilliant), and The Man Machine by Kraftwerk (slightly intimidating at the time), and this one. Aware of its towering reputation, it was the first of the four that I played upon my return home, and as I laid back on my single bed with the Sheffield Wednesday duvet cover and loaded it into my shitty Alba Hi-fi, I had no idea that this record would become an absolute staple of my life. The first few chords seemed like an old friend ruffling your hair, and the opening couplet, “If I ventured in the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams” was easily the most poetic thing I’d ever heard in a song. I let the whole album play through, as it is one of those albums, like Dark Side Of The Moon and Endtroducing, that you absolutely must listen to as a whole to truly appreciate it. The themes and images kept circling through the songs, “gardens wet with rain”, the dogs barking, the “scrapbooks stuck with glue”, I thought it was, and I still do, the most beautiful melding of words and music ever recorded.

As i spoke of in my review of Television’s Marquee Moon, certain music plays to the head rather than the heart. Astral Weeks is the exact opposite. It is music featuring an attribute so rare in a white singer: soul. Van Morrison is the greatest white male singer that has ever lived. It is important that you understand that I have used the word singer here, rather than vocalist. There is a difference between being born gifted and merely learning the craft, which is why Robert De Niro will always be a greater screen presence than say, Keanu Reeves. A vocalist is someone who learns how to sing, Morrison is someone who just pours his heart out through his larynx, often seemingly unaware that he is actually singing, chewing on words until he’s spitting the juices out. And he is accompanied by a magnificent ensemble of musicians; listen to the way that Richard Davis’ supple, almost elastic bass lines propel Cyprus Avenue, unheard in rock before or since. The astonishing jazz arrangements on The Way Young Lovers Do, a song in the same vein as Fight Song by The Flaming Lips or The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite by REM, one of such intense momentum that it is impossible to listen to without your body responding in some way; and the centrepiece, Madame George, a glorious three-chord story of a Belfast transvestite, which, even at nigh-on ten minutes, you never want to end.

I am a deeply cynical individual, and I loathe words such as transcendental, passionate, spiritual. And yet this album seems to evoke such adjectives when I listen to it. I have listened to this album at least once a month for fourteen years, and it seems to take on the role of medicine, a blanket for the soul. I would be happy to start a campaign for primary school teachers to issue it to their pupils in their final year, just so they could learn how music, above anything they will learn in high school, can strike directly into the heart.

Van Morrison was twenty three years old when he recorded this. When I was twenty three I was vomiting into a gutter down Newland Ave.

Best Tracks: Beside You, The Way That Young Lovers Do, Madame George


Best Moment:
The vocal to Sweet Thing. Like having molten happiness poured into your ears.
Like this? Try: Sea Change by Beck, 2002

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Miles vs Chatterton

gabrael

Some of you may remember a bit back that I did a couple of articles about my time in the semi-legendary Hull punk band Sal Paradise. If you read the second one, you’ll remember that I spoke very highly of a chap called Mark Chatterton, who to this day I rate as the nicest man I met in my brief sojourn in the music industry. Mark is the singer in a Peter Gabriel tribute act called Gabrael and, being somewhat of a fan of the former Genesis man myself, I was keen to shoot Mark a few questions.

How’s it going Mark?

Hello Allen, I am very well thank you. It’s very nice that you think of me so nicely.

Tell us about GABRAEL.

GABRAEL is something I have been wanting to do since my earliest days being in bands. More years than i care to remember. The problem was, up until now finding the musicians that were interested in doing Peter’s music, as well as capable and confident enough to perform it. He isn’t the easiest of artists to tribute, as we are finding out all the time.

I have borne witness to your musical taste and it’s very varied. Why Peter Gabriel?

Its true, my musical tastes are very varied. i have my parents to thank for that. when i was growing up, we always had music playing in the house. As a result, i love listening to big band jazz, as well as motown thanks to my sister Lynn, reggae, rock, (as long as i can understand the vocalsI). Most important for me is the voice. I’m a big fan of a unique voice. Singers like Thom Yorke, Xavier Rudd, Paul Simon, Ben Okafor, Stevie Nicks, Marvin Gaye, Billy Holliday really evoke a reaction in me, just through the way they deliver a line, even just a phrase. The masters of vocal delivery for me though are Frank Sinatra and Peter Gabriel. Two totally different styles, but both can move me to tears, or make me dance, which is no mean feat.

I first heard Peter’s voice on a Genesis concept album called The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway when I was eleven years old. Thirty seven years ago. A family member at the time recorded me onto tape the first half of a double concept album, telling me that the last half was “heavy going”, and I probably wouldn’t like it. Instantly, Peter’s voice struck a chord with me, and although the concept was supposed to be confusing, I instantly put images to his words to the point where i had the story of the album as a film playing in my head.
Also, the sound of the album was unlike anything i had heard before. its that album in particular that sparked my interest in sound,. I was captivated by the way the sound filled the left, right, downside, upside, front and rear and how sound, when cleverly manipulated, can play tricks on you. I actually heard sounds as colours and shades for the first tim. That’s what took me down my path to becoming a sound engineer.

I had other bands that I listened to at the time that I first heard this album, but Genesis, in particular the Gabriel era Genesis has always been with me. The rest, over the years have gone from my record collection, never to be replaced.


Gabriel is a phenomenal singer. From a personal stand point I rate the vocal to Biko as one of the top 5 performances in all of rock. Were you at all intimidated trying to re-create the work of such a gifted vocalist?

Maybe not intimidated by the task. but because i was sure that at some point in my life, i was going to get this together. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, not just for me, but also for whoever was going to make up he band. Because I have had decades of listening to his body of work, and digesting it subliminally, i was confident i could do my part. We, as a band would never be able to recreate 100% what he puts onto his studio albums. That would be impossible, but hearing the live albums has given us an insight as to how he performs the songs. Almost all of the tracks as we perform them, we have been referencing his live versions.

Regarding the track Biko, it is such a powerful song, very poignant, and although of a specific era, relating to a specific point in time, it’s a song that still resonates today.

You rehearsed for what seemed like an ice age before your first show. Was this a deliberate thing?

Absolutely a conscious decision. This is music that has to be right. Fans of Peter’s music i am assuming are very protective over his work. If we had rushed the songs just to perform them, they would not have been right, and that was not what any of us in the band wanted to do. It wouldn’t have been a good start. Every member of GABRAEL has been in bands for decades, and without using cliches, we have all really been there, done that and worn the t shirt out. So, although there was an eagerness in us to get out there, we knew we had to wait till we had things right.
Our first ever show was virtually unannounced, as a guest of Shine Over Babylon at a venue in our hometown. It was kind of a “lets see how NOT ready we are. Lets do a show, see where we are polished, and see what needs polishing”. As it turned out, although we made a few slight mistakes, on the whole it was better than any of us were expecting. And although it was an unannounced show, many people heard that we were performing, found out where and when, and turned up. We got a really good response to the show, which really did us all a power of good. It sort of confirmed that we were onto something here.

Signal To Noise is my favourite Peter Gabriel song. Will you be doing the weird shit like that or are you doing the crowd pleasers such as Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer?

Were gonna go right across the board with the set list for our first few shows, which is still being arranged at the moment. When approaching the set list, it’s fair to say that the rest of the band have followed my lead to some extent, with me knowing more of his stuff than the rest of the band for the first few rehearsals. Obviously, we have to play the “hits” such as Sledgehammer, Biko, Solisbury Hill, Games Without Frontiers and Don’t Give Up to mention a few. After that, we have all had a say in the remainder of the set. We did actually ask our Facebook followers to name songs which they wold like to see us perform, which has been interesting. A lot of obscure album tracks have popped up a few times. It’s been nice to gauge opinions of fellow fans.

We are picking the songs which are interesting, challenging, and fun to perform. I don’t want to give away too much about our set, but hopefully there will be something for everyone.


His music is often very complex, usually using a huge amount of studio wizardry. Did you find that your background as a sound engineer gave you a few ideas of how to recreate it in a live setting?

Listening to his studio albums with my live and recording engineers hat on, I do understand a lot about how he has put the songs together, or at least I think I do. We are currently working on the various sound loops Peter uses, creating our own versions. To recreate his studio sounds live would take an army of musicians.

GABRAEL would be something that, as a sound engineer I wold love to be controlling from a mixing desk in a live setting. I had the opportunity of working with Genes-ish a few years ago, and because I knew every part of every song they performed, I like to think I was able to give them the sound that they would have wanted the audience to hear.

Luckily, we have a wonderful sound guy called David Elf, who asides from being a really nice guy to work with, is a good sound engineer who cares about the sound he gives us. He is just as eager to get it right as we are. It will be down to him to add the trickery.

What are you hoping to achieve with this act Mark?

Not actually sure what we are hoping to achieve from this. It’s just something we are all very passionate about doing, and doing well. It would be nice to, at some point in the future, get onto some of the bigger stages and festivals. That’s something for further down the line though, but definitely our aim. We just want to put on spectacular shows that people come away from singing the songs.


Rattle us off a few dates, venues and stuff like that.

We have a couple more unannounced “dipping toes in the water” shows during August and September, just to get used to playing together as a band out of the comfort zone of our rehearsal rooms.
The next few main shows are at Hornsea Floral Hall on November 1st, Hennigans in Bolton at the end of November.
Our first full length Hull show is at Fruit on January 29th through our friends at GJM Music promotions. We have a few tricks up our sleeve for that one, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about what they are. Hopefully, it will be unlike any other show.

And do you have a website?

We have, yes. gabrael.co.uk. There isn’t a great deal on it yet. Until we have some music or video, it’s just a site. We are planning to go into the studio and do a live recording session with no overdubs. We just have to draft in the female vocalist, the final piece of the jigsaw that makes up GABRAEL, and then we will book a date with Dave and record maybe half a dozen tracks. Once we have them, we will probably launch the site with those songs, as well as some really cool photographs from our own photographer Ian.

Our motto with the website, as well as our approach to the shows is “build it, and they will come”.


There you go folks. These boys are worth checking out. Cheers for talking to us Mark. And… just out of interest, what is your favourite Peter Gabriel song?

I don’t have a particular favourite. I absolutely adore Father Son. I defy anyone to not like it. Lyrically, it says just enough, without saying too much. A very emotional song. You mentioned Signal To Noise, another favourite of mine. I love singing Family Snapshot, with its imagery that seems obvious but has a wonderful twist to the story at the end. There really are too many to mention. I really could be hear till the end of the year telling you what I like about any of his songs. Oh, Washing Of The Water, I absolutely adore his voice on that. See what I meet, I could be here for ages.

Thanks for the questions Allen, it’s been a pleasure answering them for you.

If Gaza Is Left To Burn, Then So Will The Situation In The West by Paul Featherstone

I took to Twitter before writing this article and put into the search engine “Gaza children killed”. I was quickly confronted by a grim portfolio of infants. Many of them had their heads blown into pieces. Some photos had the eerie look of a slumber party, with rows of children interlinked- their eyes shut in a morbid scene that equated to something bizarrely peaceful in the frozen 2D it was viewed, in a stark contrast to the horror it presented. These are the dead of Gaza, and I chose to look upon them because to turn your eyes away from what is happening right now in that part of world, is to close your eyes to the very worst of mankind. People are more comfortable looking upon historical atrocities such as the Holocaust, Somalia and Yugoslavia because the photo captures something that is long gone and cannot be prevented any longer. What is happening in Gaza right now can be prevented, there is just minimal effort to do anything approaching that from the global community.

I haven’t so far seen any images of the dead from flight MH17, nor have I actively sook them out. The tales of body parts hanging from phone lines and of scorched spinal columns in fields communicates the horror strongly enough. I don’t have to search out this horror as it is openly played out on every major media outlet from the minute it occurred. Gaza, frankly, is not.
The apparent lack of condemnation of the Israeli operation in Gaza (aside from when the likes of John Kerry think a microphone is off), is as deafening as that coming from the western world towards Putin and his merry band of men in Donetsk. Herein lies the issue for the west. Putin has watched as the west and the UN stand idly by as women and children are massacred in the likes of Syria and now Palestine  and he sees little appetite to do anything about it. Why then, should someone such as him have much regard for the collateral damage of him arming his chess pieces in his longer game to take back as much (or indeed all of) the Ukraine?
Men like Putin are, to break it into small pieces, simply spoiling for a fight. Quite often, they like the idea of looking tough rather than getting a bloodied nose and so, when the likes of the US blink, as they so often have with regards to Russia, the chance to further flex muscles and bully the other children in the playground becomes irresistible.
Quite sanely, there is little appetite for war against Russia anywhere in the world except for the Ukraine, yet the promise of sanctions that so far seem to be having little effect and the obvious avoidance of World War Three leave Russia’s critics with very little cards to play. As with the likes of Saddam Hussein in the past, sanctions rarely unsettle the likes of Putin as he would quite happily let the majority of his country starve before he caves in. That means the West must have the credibility to condemn the murder of its civilians in the skies above a war zone whose flames have been openly stoked by Moscow.
Unfortunately, that is something that the Kremlin clearly believes is lacking right now. The defiance of the UN Security Council in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan, with zero consequence for the US and the UK, is quite obviously fresh in the mind of Putin even now, many years later. A starting point, especially for the US, must be to have the same firm stance regarding the humans being blown to pieces in other places in the world other than a field in far away Donetsk.
The situation in Israel and Palestine is complicated, to make the understatement of history but it cannot be beyond the intellect of all sides within and outside of the conflict, that killing children on the beach and blowing up hospitals will only breed more people willing to fire rockets into Israel and kill their soldiers. It cannot also be beyond the intellect of most world leaders that you cannot stand and condemn the deaths of innocent people in Eastern Europe whilst ignoring the rockets used to wipe out children playing in the sun.
The lack of access to the crash site in Donetsk draws parallels with the people being shot at by snipers as they try to help the injured and retrieve the dead in Gaza. The lack of dignity shown to the bodies in bags in the Ukraine is offset, much like a field of poppies many years ago, by sunflowers nearby. It’s a picture card framed reminder of man’s inability to learn from the horrors of war.
There are no flowers swaying in the breeze nearby in Palestine. Just rubble and the site of a small body being carried in the agonised arms of a parent, a hole where their small skull once was. One of the founding principles of western democracy is that all civilian lives are as indispensable as the next, especially in the case of children. Right now, the UN  should keep this at the forefront of their mind if they hope to stop the deaths of any further westerners and convince Putin there is no justifiable collateral damage in his conflict as he pulls his strings- you cannot stem the bloodshed of an explosion at a nick on the thumb, you must apply pressure everywhere until the flow is stopped at the wound.
Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 32 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff